Celebrities Who Do Drugs: 30 Famous Actors Who Battled Addiction
30 Famous Celebrities Who Have Done Drugs and Battled Addiction and Alcoholism
- 1 30 Famous Celebrities Who Have Done Drugs and Battled Addiction and Alcoholism
- 2 1. Drew Barrymore
- 3 2. Mary-Kate Olsen
- 4 3. Lindsay Lohan
- 5 4. Tila Tequila
- 6 5. Mischa Barton
- 7 6. Corey Haim
- 8 7. Jeremy London
- 9 8. River Phoenix
- 10 9. David Hasselhoff
- 11 10. Robert Downey Jr.
- 12 11. Farrah Fawcett
- 13 12. Nicole Richie
- 14 13. Heath Ledger
- 15 14. Jason Cook
- 16 15. Macaulay Culkin
- 17 16. Edie Falco
- 18 17. Philip Seymour Hoffman
- 19 18. Charlie Sheen
- 20 19. Tatum O’Neal
- 21 20. Johnny Depp
- 22 21. Ed Harris
- 23 22. Michael J. Fox
- 24 23. Jamie Lee Curtis
- 25 24. Brittany Murphy
- 26 25. Judy Garland
- 27 26. Marilyn Monroe
- 28 27. Anna Nicole Smith
- 29 28. Edie Sedgwick
- 30 29. Elizabeth Taylor
- 31 30. Kirsten Dunst
- 32 Biography
- 33 PERVASIVE USE OF COCAINE IS REPORTED IN HOLLYWOOD
1. Drew Barrymore
Former child star Drew Barrymore’s drug abuse in her teenage years found her controversial fame, including two trips to rehab that motivated her to get back on track with her career.
2. Mary-Kate Olsen
“Full House” actress Mary-Kate Olsen suffered with anorexia and a related cocaine addiction that led her to rehab. The Olsen twins have since designed a $55,000 pill-covered handbag.
3. Lindsay Lohan
Once the adorable child star in the original film, The Parent Trap, Lindsay Lohan has since struggled with different aspects of her life, including drug and alcohol abuse, DUI arrests, jail time, and multiple stints in rehab.
4. Tila Tequila
Bisexual reality dating star Tila Tequila is known for her publicity stunts and drug use.
5. Mischa Barton
“The O.C.” star Mischa Barton has gotten more press for drug use than for acting. Her DUI and marijuana possession have kept her in the spotlight.
6. Corey Haim
The Lost Boys child star Corey Haim found himself lost in drugs at a young age. His death in 2010 was attributed to a bad prescription medication concoction.
7. Jeremy London
While he was still struggling, actor Jeremy London denied his drug use with a ridiculous story about how a guy kidnapped him and forced him to use drugs.
8. River Phoenix
Promising actor River Phoenix, known in the ’80s for his role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, shocked the world when his 1993 death exposed him as a heroin addict.
9. David Hasselhoff
“Baywatch” boy David Hasselhoff began struggling with alcohol in the early 1970s. Wearing only sweatpants, he fled a rehab center in 2002.
10. Robert Downey Jr.
Although actor Robert Downey Jr. first tried drugs at the young age of six, it wasn’t until 1996 that he faced his first drug-related arrest. After a troubling period with drug abuse, Downey Jr. has achieved an inspiring comeback from addiction.
11. Farrah Fawcett
All-American beauty Farrah Fawcett suffered a drug and alcohol addiction that saw her promising acting career thrown into a series of tumultuous twists and turns.
12. Nicole Richie
Actress Nicole Richie has struggled with numerous addictions, including heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, resulting in three arrests and five car accidents.
13. Heath Ledger
The Dark Knight star Heath Ledger died in 2008 of a toxic combination of six prescription drugs.
14. Jason Cook
“Days of Our Lives” actor Jason Cook was arrested for drug possession and public intoxication in 2005.
15. Macaulay Culkin
In 2004, Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin was arrested for Xanax and marijuana possession during a rough patch in his life.
16. Edie Falco
Known for her role as a painkiller addict on “Nurse Jackie,” Edie Falco’s own addiction experiences have played a part in her dynamic acting.
17. Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote” Oscar nominee, used alcohol and drugs a lot as a young adult. Hoffman relapsed in February 2014 and died from a combined drug intoxication.
18. Charlie Sheen
At age 16, actor Charlie Sheen was arrested for marijuana possession on his mom’s birthday.
19. Tatum O’Neal
As a result of dealing with her mentally unstable mother, Oscar winner Tatum O’Neal turned to cocaine by age twenty.
20. Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp became a heavy drinker simply because of his claim to fame. He couldn’t speak at ceremonies without the help of alcohol.
21. Ed Harris
Ed Harris had a slight drinking problem at the time he played the lead role in Pollock.
22. Michael J. Fox
Following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 1991, Michael J. Fox turned to alcohol as an escape.
23. Jamie Lee Curtis
Popular actress Jamie Lee Curtis used to hide her resentments in drugs and alcohol.
24. Brittany Murphy
The beautiful actress Brittany Murphy died in 2009, and the secondary cause of death was multiple drug intoxication.
25. Judy Garland
Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland struggled with drug addiction for much of her life and died of a barbiturate overdose at age forty-seven.
26. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe’s barbiturate overdose was allegedly a suicide attempt, reflecting her tumultuous personal problems.
27. Anna Nicole Smith
Anna Nicole Smith was found dead in 2007 with a lethal dose of a drug concoction in her system.
28. Edie Sedgwick
Edie Sedgwick died in 1971 of a potent mix of barbiturates and alcohol.
29. Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor, one of the great actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, struggled with drug and alcohol dependency for years.
30. Kirsten Dunst
Spider-Man actress Kirsten Dunst has been caught with drugs and checked in and out of rehab for alcohol and drug abuse.
How do you know if you or a loved one may be addicted? Find out here.
The world has lost far too many bright stars to drug addiction and alcohol abuse. From Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse, to Cory Monteith and Philip Seymour Hoffman, celebrity deaths from drug and alcohol overdoses leave millions of fans in mourning. Could we have saved these stars? What do these celebrity drug deaths have in common? See for yourself in our Celebrity Drug Death Memorial Wall, an interactive flip book that documents 75 celebrities who have passed away due to complications with substance abuse.
About the Author
The editorial staff of DrugAbuse.com is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers . Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands of pages for accuracy and relevance. Our reviewers consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA, NIDA, and other reputable sources to provide our readers the most accurate content on the web.
23.1 Million people need treatment for illicit substance or alcohol abuse — 9.1% of all Americans*.
*aged 12 or older. Data accurate as of 2010.
9% of Americans needing treatment for substance abuse are receiving it, leaving 20.5 million people still in need.
17.9 Million people in the U.S. have alcohol dependence or abuse problems — 7% of the population.*
*aged 12 or older. Data accurate as of 2010.
When hunky, twenty-year-old heart-throb Heath Ledger first came to the attention of the public in 1999, it was all too easy to tag him as a «pretty boy» and an actor of little depth. He spent several years trying desperately to sway this image, but this was a double-edged sword. His work comprised nineteen films, including 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Patriot (2000), A Knight’s Tale (2001), Monster’s Ball (2001), Ned Kelly (2003), The Brothers Grimm (2005), Lords of Dogtown (2005), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Casanova (2005), Candy (2006), I’m Not There (2007), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009). He also produced and directed music videos and aspired to be a film director.
Heath Ledger was born on the fourth of April 1979, in Perth, Western Australia, to Sally (Ramshaw), a teacher of French, and Kim Ledger, a mining engineer who also raced cars. His ancestry was Scottish, English, Irish, and Sephardi Jewish. As the story goes, in junior high school it was compulsory to take one of two electives, either cooking or drama. As Heath could not see himself in a cooking class he tried his hand at drama. Heath was talented, however the rest of the class did not acknowledge his talent. When he was seventeen he and a friend decided to pack up, leave school, take a car and rough it to Sydney. Heath believed Sydney to be the place where dreams were made or, at least, where actors could possibly get their big break. Upon arriving in Sydney with a purported sixty-nine cents to his name, Heath tried everything to get a break.
His first real acting job came in a low-budget movie called Blackrock (1997), a largely unimpressive cliché; an adolescent angst film about one boy’s struggle when he learns his best mate raped a girl. He only had a very small role in the film. After that small role Heath auditioned for a role in a T.V. show called Sweat (1996) about a group of young Olympic hopefuls. He was offered one of two roles, one as a swimmer, another as a gay cyclist. Heath accepted the latter because he felt to really stand out as an actor one had to accept unique roles that stood out from the bunch. It got him small notice, but unfortunately the show was quickly axed, forcing him to look for other roles. He was in Home and Away (1988) for a very short period, in which he played a surfer who falls in love with one of the girls of Summer Bay. Then came his very brief role in Paws (1997), a film which existed solely to cash in on guitar prodigy Nathan Cavaleri’s brief moment of fame, where he was the hottest thing in Australia. Heath played a student in the film, involved in a stage production of a Shakespeare play, in which he played «Oberon». A very brief role, this offered him a small paycheck but did nothing to advance his career. Then came Two Hands (1999). He went to the U.S. trying to audition for film roles, showcasing his brief role in Roar (1997) opposite then unknown Vera Farmiga.
Then Australian director Gregor Jordan auditioned him for the lead in Two Hands (1999), which he got. An in your face Aussie crime thriller, Two Hands (1999) was outstanding and helped him secure a role in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). After that, it seemed Heath was being typecast as a young hunk, which he did not like, so he accepted a role in a very serious war drama The Patriot (2000).
What followed was a stark inconsistency of roles, Ledger accepting virtually every single character role, anything to avoid being typecast. Some met with praise, like his short role in Monster’s Ball (2001), but his version of Ned Kelly (2003) was an absolute flop, which led distributors hesitant to even release it outside Australia. Heath finally had deserved success with his role in Brokeback Mountain (2005). For his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in in the film, Ledger won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and Best International Actor from the Australian Film Institute, and was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Ledger was found dead on January 22, 2008 in his apartment in the Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo, with a bottle of prescription sleeping pills near-by. It was concluded weeks later that he died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs that included pain-killers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication. His death occurred during editing of The Dark Knight (2008) and in the midst of filming his last role as Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009).
Posthumously, he shared the 2007 Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award with the rest of the ensemble cast, the director, and the casting director for the film I’m Not There (2007), which was inspired by the life and songs of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. In the film, Ledger portrayed a fictional actor named Robbie Clark, one of six characters embodying aspects of Dylan’s life and persona.
A few months before his death, Ledger had finished filming his performance as the Joker in ‘The Dark Knight (2008). His untimely death cast a somber shadow over the subsequent promotion of the $185 million Batman production. Ledger received more than thirty posthumous accolades for his critically acclaimed performance as the Joker, the psychopathic clown prince of crime, in the film, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Best Actor International Award at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards (for which he is the second actor to win an acting award posthumously after Peter Finch who won an Oscar for Network (Best Actor 1977)), the 2008 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor — Motion Picture, and the 2009 BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.
PERVASIVE USE OF COCAINE IS REPORTED IN HOLLYWOOD
By Robert Lindsey, Special To the New York Times
The use of illicit drugs in Hollywood has become so pervasive that companies that insure movies have begun to amend their policies to reflect drug-related risks, and some people in the entertainment industry maintain that drug abuse is affecting the content and quality of films and television programs produced here.
Police investigators in Los Angeles contend that cocaine and other drugs are sold routinely on many film and television production sets. Drug dealers, some of them riding in chauffeured limousines, make regular rounds to the homes of executives, performers and technicians in the film, television and rock music industries, some of whom are spending as much as $1 million a year on cocaine. Grand Jury Investigates
Federal agents allege that William Morgan Hetrick, who was indicted Friday on cocaine trafficking charges with John Z. De Lorean, the former executive of the General Motors Corporation, was among the major suppliers of cocaine to the Hollywood entertainment industry before his arrest. Mr. Hetrick, who has denied complicity in any illicit drug dealing, is a 50-year-old former resident of Ventura County who was a pilot and operator of a three-plane flying service at a small-town airport in the Mojave Desert.
Since late summer, a Los Angeles County grand jury has been investigating the death of the actor John Belushi from an overdose of cocaine and heroin March 5. According to investigators familiar with the case, the grand jury has received allegations of widespread use of illegal drugs by people in the entertainment business.
Interviews by The New York Times with law-enforcement officials, members of the industry and others confirm that consumption of illegal drugs — a fact of life in Hollywood since the 1920’s — has ballooned since the late 70’s. And unlike the situaiton in the past, drugs are used openly, as if old taboos had evaporated.
Police officials and industry insiders emphasize that drug abuse is not universal in the business, that many people spurn narcotics. But they also say that from the executive level at major studios to the technicians who help make movies, drugs, particularly cocaine, are now commonplace.
»It’s at epidemic stages,» said Lieut. Ed Hawkins of the Los Angeles Police Department, who heads narcotics enforcement in the western part of the city, the area where most of the entertainment industry is concentrated.
Even though the motion picture industry is in a state of depression this year, producing about half as many films as it did last year, Lieutenant Hawkins said, »There’s no shortage of money for drugs.» The Impact of the Problem
According to an unreleased survey taken by the stunt women’s subcommittee of the Women’s Committee of the Screen Actors Guild, 22 of 41 stunt women surveyed said they had been offered drugs on a set or location, and nearly 25 said they had worked with someone who was under the influence of drugs. More than a third of the women said they had witnessed drug dealing on a set. The stunt women blamed peer pressure, addiction to drugs and the inability »to cope with daily realities of life» and »boredom on the set,» as one put it, for the high incidence of drug use.
The death of Mr. Belushi and the near death of the comedian Richard Pryor more than two years ago, after he was severely burned while preparing cocaine to use in a highly potent form, have focused attention on the use of drugs here. But people in Hollywood say drug use is having a much broader impact on the industry than those instances indicate.
Richard Watkins, an adjustor here for Lloyds of London, said the growing use of cocaine during the shooting of films had prompted some companies that insure Hollywood productions to amend their policies, changing deductability and exclusion clauses, to cut losses that they attribute to the drug.
Performers stimulated by the drug, he asserted, frequently stay up all night because they are unable to sleep, then call their director in the morning to say that they have influenza. An NBC official said insurance companies have refused to insure films featuring at least two male stars who have a reputation for drug abuse. A Copter Crash and a Car Crash
The children of the actor Vic Morrow have filed a suit here contending that illegal drugs may have been used when a helicopter crashed July 23 during the making of a feature film, »The Twilight Zone,» killing Mr. Morrow and two Vietnamese children participating in the film.
Don Llorente, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, acknowledged that he was investigating the possibility that cocaine was being used before the crash by people connected with the film , but he said he had found no evidence of it.
Three weeks ago, Richard Dreyfuss, the Academy Award-winning star of »The Goodbye Girl,» was charged with driving under the influence of drugs after he lost control of his car and it rolled over several times in Beverly Hills. The Beverly Hills police said a vial of white powder suspected of being cocaine was found in the car. Meyer Mishkin, Mr. Dreyfuss’s longtime agent, said after the actor’s arrest that to his knowledge Mr. Dreyfuss had never used drugs or alcohol.
Mr. Dreyfuss is the latest in a series of Hollywood personalities who have got into trouble with law-enforcement officials in recent years over charges of possessing illegal drugs. Others include Robert Evans, the producer; Stan Dragoti, a director; and the actresses Louise Lasser, Linda Blair, Gail Fisher and MacKenzie Phillips. Reasons for the Attention
Some people in the entertainment industry contend that the use of illicit drugs may be no more common here than among other upperincome groups around the country. They complain that television and the press pay a disproportionate amount of attention to drug use in the entertainment world.
Others, including Daryl Gates, the police chief of Los Angeles, say it is appropriate to focus attention on drug use in Hollywood, not only because it is illegal and so widespread here but also because performers such as Mr. Belushi become role models for young people who live far from Hollywood.
Mr. Belushi, a favorite of young audiences for his appearances on television’s »Saturday Night Live» comedy show and as the nihilistic Blutarsky in the film »The National Lampoon’s Animal House,» was found dead on the morning of March 5 in a $200-a-day suite at the Chateau Marmont Hotel, a Hollywood landmark above Sunset Boulevard. After Dr. Thomas T. Noguchi, the Los Angeles County coroner, announced a week later that the actor had died from »acute cocaine and heroin intoxication,» the Los Angeles Police Department classified it as a routine drug overdose, one of more than 600 they expected in the county this year.
Mr. Belushi’s widow, Judith Jacklin Belushi, later complained that there had been a cover-up by the Los Angeles Police Department and that the entire story about his death had not been told. An investigation of his death was begun in late summer by the Los Angeles County grand jury after a 35-year-old singer, Cathy Evelyn Smith, who was with Mr. Belushi on the morning he died, was quoted in The National Enquirer as saying that she administered a coup de grace by giving him an injection of heroin and cocaine. The Enquirer, a tabloid specializing in celebrity gossip, was reported to have paid Miss Smith $15,000 for her interview. Robin Williams Testified
According to the newspaper, Miss Smith, who investigators have said was a former rock music groupie who supplied drugs to some people in the entertainment world, said Mr. Belushi spent the night before his death drinking a good deal of wine and »speedballing,» a term that applies to the injection of a potent mixture of heroin and cocaine.
Miss Smith later said her interview, published under the headline, »I Killed John Belushi,» had been distorted by The National Enquirer. The publication provided tape-recordings of the interview to the grand jury.
Several acquaintances of Mr. Belushi have been called before the grand jury to discuss his death. One is Robin Williams, the star of television’s »Mork and Mindy» and of the movie »The World According to Garp.» Miss Smith said she had seen him with Mr. Belushi the night before his death. Mr. Williams has declined to discuss his testimony.
People with knowledge of the investigation, which is expected to continue for at least another month, say it has established that Mr. Belushi took drugs frequently during the final days of his life, sometimes in the company of prominent film and rock stars. But so far, they say, it has failed to establish the culpability of anyone besides Mr. Belushi himself. ‘No Smoking Gun’
These sources say that while Miss Smith, who is in Canada and who has not testified before the grand jury, appears, by her admission, to have violated Federal and state laws by providing drugs to Mr. Belushi, there does not appear to be sufficient grounds to prosecute her for his death. Among other factors to be considered, they said, were the ingestion of large amounts of drugs by Mr. Belushi and the difficulty of forging a direct link between her actions and his death.
»There’s no smoking gun,» one investigator said, »but we’re getting a picture of a lot of people using drugs.» Interviews with directors, agents and studio executives confirmed the allegations of widespread drug use made before the grand jury, although most of the people interviewed agreed to talk only if assured that they would not be identified. Most said they feared they would lose their jobs or not be hired for another movie if their names were published.
One executive, a longtime member of the Hollywood scene who said he has not used drugs or alcohol for three months, said actresses were generally less likely to use cocaine than men because »coke’s so self-destructive in terms of looks.» He was speaking of the gaunt look of many regular users of cocaine, who, stimulated by the drug, eat less than usual. This characteristic appearance is referred to as the »coke look.» Cocaine and Making a Pitch
A studio executive said cocaine was often used by »agents pitching properties to studio executives and freelance producers pitching projects to studio executives.»
He said the usual procedure goes like this: »You snort in the car as you’re parking it in the studio lot to get yourself up for the meeting. Meetings in Hollywood tend to last 40 minutes, but a snort of coke is only good for 20 minutes. When it wears off, there’s always a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the meeting.»
The fact that cocaine is often snorted behind the locked doors of bathrooms has had unexpected consequences. »People joke about the fact that they’re embarrassed to go to the bathroom at parties,» one producer said. Another said he acquired an unwarranted reputation for being a cocaine user when he had a siege of intestinal problems.
Although articles about cocaine use in Hollywood have focused on glamorous figures such as directors and actors, many people in Hollywood painted a picture of endemic drug use among assistant directors, stagehands, camera operators and other technical members of a movie crew. Those technicians are often said to supply a movie’s director or star with drugs. Several pointed to the long hours of boredom on movie sets punctuated by a few minutes of frenetic work as a reason for drug-taking. The Effect on Entertainment
There was almost unanimous agreement among those interviewed that when the people in charge of a movie are heavy users of cocaine, the finished movie shows the effects. »When the director or stars or producer are on cocaine, they seem to have tunnel vision,» said one studio production vice president who described himself as a recreational user of the drug. »There’s a party going on on screen, but the audience isn’t invited. You can’t enter into the logic of the film. The sin is the mess that results on the screen.»
The huge cost overruns on some movies have been attributed in part to delays and the need for retakes caused by participants who were using cocaine. On the other hand, large amounts of cocaine on a set do not necessarily mean a movie will be a critical or financial flop.
Some people have attested to the large quantity of drugs on the location of the critically acclaimed »Close Encounters of the Third Kind.» The movie’s producer, Julia Phillips, who has said she started snorting cocaine on »Close Encounters,» has estimated that she spent more than $1 million on her cocaine habit. Steven Spielberg, the director of »Close Encounters,» has never been implicated as a cocaine user. A Cameraman Is Criticized
Glenn Jordan, director of »Only When I Laugh,» said he had »once worked with a cameraman who used cocaine.» »His work was sloppy because he was so hyper he didn’t have the patience to refine it,» Mr. Jordan said. »I don’t think it’s possible to maintain an important career if you’re on coke.»
»It’s hard to be responsible when you’re stoned,» one producer said, adding that the director of his last movie was »incoherent because he was so out of his mind on coke.» He said, »Cocaine is a serious problem in Hollywood because there’s no social pressure against it.»
Mr. Dragoti, the director of »Love At First Bite,» said a year ago, »Nobody makes any moral judgments about cocaine because it’s so widespread.» Mr. Dragoti, who had been arrested in West Germany for possession of cocaine and who admitted his guilt, said, »If people are afraid to hire you, it’s only because they’re afraid you’re out of control.» A Stand Against Cocaine
Not all directors and producers interviewed said they were aware of cocaine use in film productions. Sydney Pollack, director of »The Way We Were,» said, »I keep hearing that people are coked up or coked out, but I’ve directed 13 films and worked with most of the major stars, from Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand to Paul Newman, Al Pacino and Jane Fonda, and I’ve never seen any coke on the set. You do run across grass but, as far as I know, I’ve never worked with anyone using coke.»
Barry Diller, chairman of Paramount Pictures, said of Paramount’s position on cocaine: »We will not be protective. We have had very few instances and those instances have never really been proven. If we find anybody is using Paramount’s property or systems such as film cans for any drug-related activities, we will terminate the person immediately and report it to the authorities. If we find drug use on our lot, we will call in the appropriate authorities without even a second thought.»
Among those their peers label as heavy users of cocaine are the current head of a major studio and two male stars whose screen personalities epitomized the perplexed, middle-class urban man and who seemed on the verge of becoming superstars in the early 70’s. Instead, they have been regarded as burned out and generally relegated to parts in B movies. Reasons for Its Popularity
Dr. Ronald K. Siegel, a psychopharmacologist who operates a clinic here that treats chronic abusers of cocaine and whose patients have included Julia Phillips, attributes the drug’s popularity among people in the entertainment world largely to the cyclical nature of their work.
»They work periodically,» he said. »They may work very intensely for several months and then there are long periods of boredom. And cocaine is very glamorous and glittery; it’s a very exciting drug with a lot of appeal. Once they start using it, a lot of people don’t stop.»
Dr. Siegel said the people who seek help at his clinic generally are using cocaine in its purest, most expensive and most dangerous form in a technique called »free-basing.» They smoke cigarettes treated with cocaine from which hydrochloride salt has been removed, leaving a base of pure cocaine.
It was while purifying cocaine to remove the salt, a process that uses ether or other volatile materials, that Richard Pryor suffered his nearly fatal burns, according to the police.
»My clients who are smoking cocaine free base are spending $2,000 to $12,000 a week,» Dr. Siegel said. »It’s not unsual for someone to spend $500,000 to a million dollars a year on cocaine.» The problem has been growing for several years, he said, but »the real escalation began in 1980 and 1981.» Abuse in Other Fields
While most of his current clients work in the entertainment industry, Dr. Siegel stressed that »we see almost as many people from business, people who are captains of industry, and from professional sports» as from the entertainment world. »I don’t think it’s particularly indigenous to the entertainment industry.»
Cocaine, he said, generally does not impair the work or family life of users. But he said a small percentage, especially those able to smoke free-base cocaine, developed such a craving for cocaine that it all but took over their lives, and for many the result was collapsed marriages and ruined careers.
Why is the drug so popular? »They use it,» he said, »because they like it; it makes them feel good.» In some male patients, he said, cocaine has improved their sex lives. »It is the most tenacious of drug dependencies,» he said.
Typically, he said, depending upon the dose and frequency of use, cocaine users undergo four stages — euphoria; then a »disphoria,» or rapid mood depression; paranoia, and finally a schizophrenia-like psychosis. Cocaine’s Portrayal in Shows
Some television network officials say the perception that many people in Hollywood use drugs has caused them to make special efforts to insure that drugs are not shown favorably on the networks.
»If we do a program on drugs,» said Maurice Goodman, the National Broadcasting Company’s vice president for standards and practices on the West Coast, »we try to show only the down side; if not, we’re afraid that it might invite imitation by impressionable viewers.
»When you make fun of drugs, you’re tacitly endorsing them. For example, when Billy Crystal had his short-lived special, he made the joke that ‘When it snows in California, half of the Californians are out snorting in their driveways.’ We feel that this kind of humor is inappropriate.»
Although law-enforcement officials assert that the use of cocaine and other drugs is common in the entertainment industry, they say that it is generally difficult to arrest users because of limited police manpower and, more important, because it is usually all but impossible for undercover agents to penetrate the Hollywood social world and gather evidence against users who take the drugs in private homes.
»You can’t go to one of those big homes and knock on the door and say, ‘We hear you’re snorting coke inside!’ » said Steve Walker, a Los Angeles detective. »You need someone inside to help you.»
The broad social acceptence of illicit drugs, especially cocaine, investigators say, and a kind of code in the industry that discourages nonusers from informing on others add greatly to the difficulty. Delivery by Limousine
»There’s a lot of dope in the movie industry,» said Mr. Walker, who is a member of the narcotics squad in the police department’s Hollywood division. »But they don’t buy it on the street; they have more sophisticated ways of getting it, like having it delivered in limousines. That’s what a lot of these limousine services do.»
Last year, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrested 10 people it said were selling cocaine from a limousine in wealthy neighborhoods, much as ice cream vendors make daily rounds in a suburban housing tract.
Working from a large rented estate in the Hollywood Hills surrounded by high walls and a guarded gate, the investigators said, members of the drug ring made regular visits to the homes of »noted Hollywood personalities.»
Lieut. Frank Bridges of the narcotics unit of the Sheriff’s Department said detectives followed the limousine to the homes of »scores of Hollywood celebrities.»
Four people have since been sentenced to prison for their part in selling the drugs, but none of their customers have been charged. »We came within an eyelash of prosecuting several Hollywood biggies,» Lieutenant Bridges said, but in the end, he said, they were not prosecuted because of a lack of evidence that would stand up in court.